NAHAN is a new international project aimed at creating a platform for documents from archaeological archives held in a series of European and North African institutions. Initiated in February 2016, the partnership is a loose network, linked initially by a Memorandum of Understanding. The project is directed by Stefano De Caro, and functions under the international ‘umbrella‘ of ICCROM-Athar, while Elizabeth Fentress will act as scientific co-ordinator. The DAI has generously offered us a platform, based on ARACHNE, their Syrian Archives Project and the iDAI.world, as well as long-term storage and curation. The platform would be an open-access resource, but it would also allow the posting of catalogue entries rather than documents, with links to other sites where documents are actually held, or, at the limit, to the institution holding documents not yet digitized.
Our aim is to provide a resource for all those who hold archives on North African archaeology and wish to make the public, or to provide for their long-term preservation, as well as for scholars who wish to study them. We forsee a number of ways to bring this about. First, the DAI will be working on the platform over the first half of 2018, testing it with their archives for Cherchell. Then, there will be a ‘proof of concept‘ on a larger scale: the creation of catalogues for the archives of 5 major North African cities: Volubilis, Cherchel, Carthage, Leptis Magna, and Cyrene. We hope then to move towards major funding requests, not only from the EU but also from various national ministries involved in overseas development.
On a smaller scale we are providing help to our North African partners in the cataloguing of their collections and the training of their personelle, as well as seeking funding for infrastructure for archives such as those in Tripoli. It is proposed that one method of cataloguing might come in the form of subventions for North African scholars who wish to study archives in European countries, or to receive more formal archival training. Quite apart from funding at the level of the project as a whole, it is hoped that the existence of the platform and the network will give individual partners leverage to raise money for digitizing their own archives.
The amount of archival material is vast, and to some extent uncalculable. NAHAN is thus essentially an open-ended project, which can be developed and used by its partners in various ways. We are anxious to hear from potential partners and individuals who hold archives that they would like to preserve or share.